Ingrown Toenails - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

By: Juliet Cohen


An ingrown toenail is a painful condition of the toe. The area is usually red and may be warm; if not treated, it is prone to infection. With bacterial invasion, the nail margin becomes red and swollen often demonstrating drainage or pus. Some ingrown toenails are chronic, with repeated episodes of pain and infection. Ingrown toenails can be caused by cutting toenails improperly, by wearing shoes that fit poorly or by injuring the nail bed. While many things can cause ingrown toenails, the major causes are shoes that don't fit well and improperly trimmed nails. This condition is usually very painful and can be associated with infection of the toe. Ingrown toenails also can run in the family. Some ingrown toenails are chronic, with repeated episodes of pain and infection. Irritation, redness, an uncomfortable sensation of warmth, as well as swelling can result from an ingrown toenail. When the toenail grows into the surrounding tissue, a painful toe is the result. Ingrown nails may produce no symptoms at first but eventually may become painful, especially when pressure is applied to the ingrown area. The great toe is usually affected, but any toenail can become ingrown. In people who have diabetes or poor circulation this relatively minor problem can be become quite severe.

Ingrown nails may develop for many reasons. Some cases are congenital--the nail is just too large for the toe. Ingrown toenails are common in adults but uncommon in children and infants. Any toenail can become ingrown, but the condition is usually found in the big toe. If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation to your feet, you're at greater risk of complications from an ingrown toenail. Soaking the foot in warm salty water may relieve the pain temporarily. The toe is not necessarily infected, but this can develop after the nail penetrate the skin to become ingrown. The infection can spread, making the toe red and inflamed (paronychia). A collection of pus may also develop. The condition usually affects your big toe. If left untreated, the inflammation can spread to the rest of your toe and the area becomes infected. It may smell unpleasant. Sometimes initial treatment for ingrown toenails can be safely performed at home.

Causes of Ingrown toenails

The common causes and risk factor's of Ingrown toenails include the following:

While many things can cause ingrown toenails, the major causes are shoes that don't fit well and improperly trimmed nails.

Injury to your toenail.

Unusually curved toenails.

Ingrown toenails can be caused by cutting toenails improperly, by wearing shoes that fit poorly or by injuring the nail bed.

Repeated trauma, such as the pounding to which runners typically subject their feet, also can cause ingrown nails.

Nail length: Cutting the nail so short that it is not constrained by the distal portion of the cuticles, allowing side slippage and penetration of the lateral nail bed by the nail substance.

Trauma, such as stubbing the toe or having the toe stepped on, may also cause an ingrown nail.

If a member of your family has an ingrown toenail, then you are more likely to develop one too.

Symptoms of Ingrown toenails

Some sign and symptoms related to Ingrown toenails are as follows:

The most common symptom of an ingrown toenail is pain, especially if the area becomes infected.

Tenderness in your toe along one or both sides of the nail.

Swelling of your toe around the nail.

Infection of the tissue around your toenail.

You may develop a fever, although this is unusual.

In addition, a small amount of pus will come out of the edge.

The infection can spread, making the toe red and inflamed (paronychia).

Treatment of Ingrown toenails

Here is list of the methods for treating Ingrown toenails:

Apply a mild antiseptic solution to the area.

Soak the foot in warm water 4 times a day. You do not need to add soap or antibacterial agents to the water.

Partial nail removal with cauterization of the nail matrix is curative in 70-90% of cases.

Wear comfortable shoes with adequate room for the toes. Consider wearing sandals until the condition clears up.

Putting cotton in the corner.

If home remedies don't help, your doctor can treat an ingrown toenail by trimming or removing the ingrown portion of your nail to help relieve pain.

Sometimes antibiotics are used to help the infection clear after the nail has been removed.

Surgery may involve numbing the toe and removing a corner of the nail, a larger portion of the nail, or the entire nail.

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Juliet Cohen writes articles for diseases cure and health care information. She also writes articles on healing remedies.

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